Ethics: Is It Wrong to Cut Off Feeding?

Experts debate the denial of nourishment for comatose patients

After he suffered a ruptured aneurysm of the brain in 1983, Massachusetts Fireman Paul Brophy lapsed into what doctors judged to be a vegetative state. Before his illness, Brophy had told friends that he would never want to live in a coma. "If I'm ever like that, just shoot me," he said. "Pull the plug." Accordingly, when Brophy failed to respond to therapy, his wife Patricia asked hospital officials to remove the feeding tube that kept him alive. They refused on ethical grounds, and she then filed suit, asserting that her husband had a right to die a natural death. The...